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Hairston v. Fultz

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

August 27, 2019

MR. FULTZ, Defendant.

          Sarah D. Morrison Judge



         Plaintiff, Rico Isaih Hairston, an Ohio inmate, brings this action against Defendant, Andrew Fultz, a correctional officer, alleging that Defendant Fultz violated his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution. This matter is before the Court for consideration of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery with Rule 37(a)(1) Good Faith Effort Certification and Request to Hold Counsel in Contempt of Court (“Motion to Compel”) (ECF No. 27), Defendant's Response in Opposition (ECF No. 28), and Plaintiff's Reply (ECF No. 29). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. (ECF No. 27.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on August 1, 2018, while incarcerated at the Corrections Reception Center (“CRC”), he applied for protective custody because Defendant Fultz, other CRC staff, and fellow inmates were harassing him. He alleges that Defendant Fultz harassed him because he had filed informal complaints against him and other staff. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant Fultz told other inmates about Plaintiff's rape conviction and about a lawsuit Plaintiff had filed against prison staff and encouraged them to attack Plaintiff. On August 15, 2018, Plaintiff reported that Defendant Fultz had been telling inmates about his case and encouraging them to attack him. According to Plaintiff, on August 16, 2018, when he asked Defendant Fultz to accept his informal grievance, Defendant Fultz responded by opening his food trap/port and spraying him with an entire can of mace. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Fultz yelled at him to “write that up” as he was being escorted to receive medical care. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15, ECF No. 19.) On August 17, 2018, Plaintiff filed an additional informal complaint against Defendant Fultz. Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on October 17, 2018. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Fultz's actions constitute retaliation in violation of his First Amendment rights and cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.

         On July 2, 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Compel, seeking three categories of documents. (ECF No. 27.) First, Plaintiff requests production of any informal complaints, grievances, appeals, and administrative investigations filed in connection with or against Defendant Fultz by inmates and/or staff during Defendant Fultz's employment as a state prison guard. (Mot. to Compel at p. 2, ECF No. 27.) Next, Plaintiff seeks his own protective custody documents and the complete protective custody report that was approved on August 16, 2018. (Id.) Third, Plaintiff seeks camera footage from August 16, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., of the west range of the T.P.U. unit and T.P.U. reception area. (Id. at p. 3.)

         Plaintiff certifies that he made several good faith efforts to obtain the requested discovery prior to filing the instant Motion to Compel. (Id. at p. 4; see also ECF No. 22.)


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), which sets forth the permissible scope of discovery, provides:

Scope in General. Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

         Determining the scope of discovery is within the Court's discretion. Bush v. Dictaphone Corp., 161 F.3d 363, 367 (6th Cir. 1998). As the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has recognized, “[t]he scope of discovery under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is traditionally quite broad.” Lewis v. ACB Bus. Serv., Inc., 135 F.3d 389, 402 (6th Cir. 1998). However, revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in 2015 “encourage judges to be more aggressive in identifying and discouraging discovery overuse.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26, Advisory Committee Notes to the 2015 Amendment. “The proportionality standard is the instrument by which judges and practitioners are to bring about a change in the culture of discovery, requiring lawyers, with the guidance of involved judges, to ‘size and shape their discovery requests to the requisites of a case.'” Waters v. Drake, 222 F.Supp.3d 582, 605 (S.D. Ohio 2016) (quoting Chief Justice Roberts, 2015 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary at 7).

         “[T]he proponent of a motion to compel discovery bears the initial burden of proving that the information sought is relevant.” Guinn v. Mount Carmel Health Sys., No. 2:09-cv-226, 2010 WL 2927254, at *5 (S.D. Ohio July 23, 2010) (quoting Clumm v. Manes, No. 2:08-cv-567, 2010 WL 2161890 (S.D. Ohio May 27, 2010)); see also Berryman v. Supervalu Holdings, Inc., No. 3:05-cv-169, 2008 WL 4934007, at *9 (S.D. Ohio Nov. 18, 2008) (“At least when the relevance of a discovery request has been challenged the burden is on the requester to show the relevance of the requested information.” (internal citation omitted)). However, the burden to demonstrate that the requested discovery would be disproportional to the needs of the case rests with the objecting party. Bros. Trading Co. v. Goodman Factors, No. 1:14-CV-975, 2016 WL 9781140, at *2 (S.D. Ohio Mar. 2, 2016) (Rule 26(b)(1) does not place the burden of addressing proportionality considerations on the requesting party; nor does it permit the opposing party to avoid responding simply by making a boilerplate objection on grounds of proportionality) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P 26, Advisory Committee Notes (2015)).

         III. ...

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